The Value of the Truth's Literature

In the March 1951 Advocate appears an article by Brother Nathaniel S. Mowry titled, "Value of the Truth's Literature" (prompting the title above). In that article, Brother Mowry asks, " Who among the Brotherhood has not benefited by the Truth's literature?" He proceeds to address the "value" within three categories, 1) Its value for personal use; 2) Its value for distribution to others; and 3) Its general value; concluding in part, " addition to the enlightening and 'building up' of the individual members of an Ecclesia, the Truth's literature has caught the attention of many a perishing mortal; and then, after such 'planting' of the Word of God in his mind, and after diligent 'watering' on the part of the Ecclesia or some member thereof, God has seen fit to give the 'increase,' and another of the sons of Adam has joined the ranks of those who look for the Lord from Heaven."

The Truth's literature, of course, begins with and is derived from the inspired Word. We are told by the Apostle Paul in Romans 15:4 that ... whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. He then says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works; and Christ admonishes us to, Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John :39)Against this background, we Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Because our posture is as one having here no continuing city, but seeking one to come at the return of Christ, the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ has been the prevalent purpose and theme of the Truth's exhortations, classes and articles appearing in our fraternal magazines. Since this baptismally-covenanted and irrevocable commitment to a yet-to-come King and Kingdom is acknowledged to be of the utmost scope and priority in this life, it affects the perspective and approach we should take in everything we do, say or think throughout our lives. With this in mind, we may profitably weigh and reflect upon the value of the literature with which we occupy our time and thought, teach and discipline our children and interrelate with our friends, neighbors and work associates.

The Christadelphian Advocate, now in its 125th year, is known to be the second-oldest fraternal periodical still in circulation within the Brotherhood, and through it we observe attention to the content, purpose and effect of the Truth's literature. It is interesting to note that on the back covers of the 1885 initial issues, (at the inception of the magazine's history), there was prominent notice of the availability of several publications, among which was included: Anastasis, Elpis Israel and Eureka (by Brother John Thomas); Yahweh Elohim (by Sister Ellen J. Lasius - Dr. Thomas' daughter); Christendom Astray, Seasons of Comfort, Twelve Lectures, The Visible Hand of God, The Ways of Providence (by Brother Robert Roberts); Atonement and Jesus Christ and Him Crucified (by Brother J. J. Andrew).

Brother Thomas Williams clearly recognized the value and need for the Truth's literature and we find that two of the publications most utilized and valued by Unamended brethren were those which would later come from Brother Williams' pen, The Great Salvation and The World's Redemption.

Brother Williams wrote The Great Salvation in connection with "The World's Columbian Exposition" held May 1st through October 30th 1893 in Chicago, and distributed a reported 14,000 copies through a booth at the "World's Congress of Religions" set up that year at the Chicago Art Institute. An explanation was given in the April 1893 Advocate that funds appealed for and collected would be "devoted to a careful distribution" of a pamphlet "into the hands of religiously inclined people from all parts of the world." The pamphlet was then in preparation, and an announcement in the July Advocate advised readers that the title selected for the pamphlet was to be The Great Salvation, 52 pages in length, prepared "with a view of making it of permanent use in teaching seekers after truth the first principles, and as a book of ready reference to texts of scripture under various headings representing the different subjects of the Gospel." The booklet addressed, in clear and concise terms, God's Plan of Salvation, His Purpose with the Earth and Man upon it, the Role of Christ in that Plan and in our lives, the Abrahamic Promises and Covenants, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, Baptism and Relevant Requirements of our Baptismal Covenant, the Disparate Destinies of the Righteous and of the Wicked and many other facets of the Truth. The Great Salvation has proven to be a source of instructive enlightenment and comforting encouragement to many within the Brotherhood over a period of more than 100 years, and is still in use as a reference source and as a teaching tool.

Another product of Brother Williams ' prodigious literary efforts is The World's Redemption, announced in the January 1898 Advocate to have been produced at the request of "many in many places," for "...frequent perusal, and to help in their efforts to bring their friends and neighbors to the light of the glorious gospel." This initial offering was for "Part I" only (chapters I through XII), with the explanation, "This book when completed is intended to contain three parts. Part II and III will be added as soon as circumstances will permit." Announcement in the August and September 1903 Advocates alerted readers to the books completion and availability (cloth bound - $1.50; leather bound - $1.75).

The World's Redemption has provided the Brotherhood with much food for thoughtful guidance through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures of which we are assured in Romans 15:4. It deals with the same broad scope of those fundamental subjects dealt with in the earlier work, The Great Salvation, but in greater depth and detail, with appropriate then-current observations and reflections by the author on world events. During the period January 1947 through April 1955, The World's Redemption appeared serially in 96 monthly installments in the Advocate.

In the March, 1937 issue of The Advocate appeared a reprint of an article by Brother Robert Roberts titled "The Reading of Books," within which he set forth "three rules of divine wisdom. " He describes these steps as: (1) " that we are all one in Christ Jesus, members one of another." (2) The care we feel for our brethren "extends peculiarly to matters affecting our relation to God, for that relation is the bond of our connection and the highest concern of our life." (3) "That the choosing of company is a matter affecting our relation to God, has therefore been made the subject of command in the sense that the sons of God are advised not to stand in the way of sinners, or make fools their companions, but to walk with wise men. The ground of this command is the effect produced by evil company, 'lest thou be like him. ' The principle applies to books. Books are as powerful a company for making men wise or foolish. Therefore the divinely-commended characteristic of the righteous is that he 'delights in the law of the Lord, and in that law meditates day and night.'" (bold added for emphasis) Brother Roberts points out that believers should avoid books that "... frivolize the mind - by engaging it in the petty aspects of life, and disposing it to find entertainment in the froth of fun and frolic ...Grow in the knowledge and love of God. You will then...know what books are useful, and what books are on the whole best left alone as hindrances on the difficult road of faith and obedience and holiness, which leads to the kingdom of God."

These literary efforts, based upon the verses of Scripture written aforetime, are likewise available for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures (with which these literary efforts must be scrupulously compared and found to be in accord) might have hope (Romans 15:4). The Christadelphian Advocate has sought to produce a monthly magazine and offer publications consistent with our Father's expectations, in the hope that with God's blessing, such efforts might assist Christ's brethren to be built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5).

The Decline of Magazines In The Twenty-First Century

Many iconic magazines have experienced significant declines in circulation in the first decade of the twenty-first century:

Magazine Name Paid Circulation
2008 1999 % Change
Reader's Digest 8,307,292 12,622,369 -34.2%
National Geographic 5,060,712 8,566,453 -40.9%
Time 3,374,366 4,103,799 -17.8%
Newsweek 2,720,034 3,162,551 -14.0%
US News & World Report 1,271,377 2,200,651 -42.2%

Source: Magazine Publishers of America Website

The reason for the decline in magazine circulation is the rise of alternative electronic media, especially among the younger generation, as their primary source of information. This trend has far-reaching implications for those who believe in the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As interest in reading wanes and there is more reliance on short, highly visual messages delivered electronically, it will be more difficult to teach the doctrines of the Bible. As a people we have a responsibility to continue to be readers, first and foremost, of the Word of God itself; and secondly, of those books and magazines which nurture understanding of its truth.